Belagavi: One day, when 12-year-old Tulasi Miryal was stopped from going to school and asked to learn household work by her parents, Vishwanath and Pentamma Niral, as she would be married off soon, Tulasi accepted the order meekly and did as told.
Hailing from Belagavi, the news didn't come as a shock to her. Tulasi comes from Sudugadu Siddhara community, where child marriages are rampant.
Tulasi began learning how to cook, wash and clean, but she missed her friends a lot. One day, Tulasi went to her ex-school, Don Bosco Institute, and met her friends, teachers and informed them about her impending marriage. Since child marriages were common in her community, her friends wished her good luck. But her teachers suggested her to attend classes till she got married. Tulasi approached her parents with the request and secured permission to attend classes, provided she also learnt domestic work. But then a life-changing event at school reshaped her thinking.
The decisive event came in the form of a street play organised by the school to create awareness about the evil of child marriage. Fittingly, Tulasi was chosen to play the role of a child rights activist, who rescues children from being married off by force at an early age.
The street play ended, but it left a deep mark on Tulasi, who by then realised about the adverse effects of child marriage. In an act of unusual courage, Tulasi stunned her parents by informing them that she would not marry. She also said that she would like to pursue her studies.
Shocked at the sudden turn of events, her parents used all methods to make her agree for the wedding. An entire day was spent in argument. However, it was their daughter who triumphed.
"I told them it is illegal to marry off a minor girl and told them how it would affect the girl's health. I told them that I want to pursue my studies," says Tulasi.
As a result of this, the family had to face the wrath of the community. "The elders of our community decided to penalise us," Tulasi says. "Our parents had to pay a fine of Rs 30,000 to the boy, who was supposed to marry me."
When questioned about the reaction of the boy, Tulasi laughs saying that the boy was "scared and did not react at all".
Tulasi plans to study further and help girls of her age who are forced into child marriage.
Belagavi-based Don Bosco Institute, which works to create awareness about social evils such as child marriages, termed Tulasi's action a "great victory". "She (Tulasi) stood against the odds and took the male members of her community head-on. She is brave and confident. We just guided her. This is indeed a success to us. We are happy at least we saved a life," says Sister Anitha Gracious, member of Don Bosco Institute.